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PHOTOS: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — A look back

Yahoo News Photo Staff
·11-min read

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court, died Friday at the age of 87.

Appointed to the high court in 1993 by then President Bill Clinton, Ginsburg quickly became one of the most respected justices in history, one whose intelligence, incisive opinions and dissents on an increasingly conservative court made her a liberal and feminist icon.

The subject of a documentary film that took its title from the initials of her name and referenced the rapper Notorious B.I.G., Ginsburg grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and, after graduating first in her class from Columbia Law School, went on to successfully argue five gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court.

On the high court, she authored opinions striking down an all-male admissions policy at the Virginia Military Institute (United States v. Virginia), upholding affirmative action at Michigan Law School (Grutter v. Bollinger) and helping establish the right of people with mental disabilities to be fully integrated into their communities (Olmstead v. LC). But her influence extended well beyond the opinions on which her name appears. Her laser-focused questioning during legal arguments was often cited as influencing the perspectives of her fellow jurists, and her legal writings continue to inspire heated debate.

Of her writing in the cases on which she represented the minority view, she told National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg, “Dissents speak to a future age. It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view.”

After Donald Trump became president and filled two Supreme Court vacancies with staunchly conservative justices, Ginsburg’s failing health became a national obsession. In December 2018, after undergoing the removal of two cancerous nodes from her left lung, Ginsburg cast the deciding vote striking down a Trump administration policy restricting the ability of migrants to apply for asylum in the United States.

“Fight for the things you care about,” Ginsberg said after receiving an award from Harvard University in 2015, “but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

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Aug. 1935 – Two years old

Ruth Bader at age 2. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)
Ruth Bader at age 2. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)

1948 – Camp rabbi

Ruth Bader delivers a sermon as camp rabbi at the age of 15, at Camp Che-Na-Wah, Minerva, N.Y. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)
Ruth Bader delivers a sermon as camp rabbi at the age of 15, at Camp Che-Na-Wah, Minerva, N.Y. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)

1953 — Senior at Cornell University

Ruth Bader as a senior at Cornell University, December 1953. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)
Ruth Bader as a senior at Cornell University, December 1953. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)

Fall 1954 — Martin and Ruth

Martin Ginsburg and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Fort Sill, Okla. Martin Ginsburg was drafted into the Army in 1954. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)
Martin Ginsburg and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Fort Sill, Okla. Martin Ginsburg was drafted into the Army in 1954. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)

Summer 1958 — With the kids

The Ginsburgs play with their 3-year old daughter, Jane, in her bedroom at Martin’s parents’ home in Rockville Centre, N.Y. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)
The Ginsburgs play with their 3-year old daughter, Jane, in her bedroom at Martin’s parents’ home in Rockville Centre, N.Y. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)

1972 — At the Greenbrier

Ruth Bader Ginsburg with husband, Martin, at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va, 1972. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg with husband, Martin, at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va, 1972. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)

1977 — Rockefeller Foundation fellowship

Ginsburg while on a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship in Italy. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)
Ginsburg while on a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship in Italy. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)

1980 — Columbia Law School professor

Ginsburg became a professor at her alma mater, Columbia Law School, in 1980. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)
Ginsburg became a professor at her alma mater, Columbia Law School, in 1980. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)

Fall 1980 — Circuit Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals

Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg during her first term as a United States Circuit Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)
Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg during her first term as a United States Circuit Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)

December 1980 — St. Thomas family vacation

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Martin Ginsburg with their children, James and Jane, off the coast of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Martin Ginsburg with their children, James and Jane, off the coast of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. (Photo: Supreme Court of the United States)

June 14, 1993 — Walk through the colonnade

President Bill Clinton and Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg walk to a news conference in which Clinton nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court. (Photo: Doug Mills/AP)
President Bill Clinton and Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg walk to a news conference in which Clinton nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court. (Photo: Doug Mills/AP)

June 15, 1993 — On Capitol Hill

Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, flanked by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., left, and Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., pays a courtesy visit to Capitol Hill. (Photo: John Duricka/AP)
Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, flanked by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., left, and Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., pays a courtesy visit to Capitol Hill. (Photo: John Duricka/AP)

July 20, 1993 — Confirmation hearing

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, left, shakes hands with Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill., as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., looks on prior to Ginsburg’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill (Photo: Doug Mills/AP)
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, left, shakes hands with Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill., as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., looks on prior to Ginsburg’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill (Photo: Doug Mills/AP)

July 20, 1993 — Confirmation hearing swear in

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg is sworn in to her confirmation hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill. Ginsburg told the committee that while she rose “on the shoulders” of women’s rights pioneers, advocacy is not her vision of a justice’s role. (Photo: Doug Mills/AP)
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg is sworn in to her confirmation hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill. Ginsburg told the committee that while she rose “on the shoulders” of women’s rights pioneers, advocacy is not her vision of a justice’s role. (Photo: Doug Mills/AP)

July 29, 1993 — Washington office

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg works in her Washington office. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to endorse the federal appeals judge’s nomination to sit on the high court. Full Senate confirmation followed, making her the 107th justice and the second woman on the U.S. Supreme Court. (Photo: Doug Mills/AP)
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg works in her Washington office. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to endorse the federal appeals judge’s nomination to sit on the high court. Full Senate confirmation followed, making her the 107th justice and the second woman on the U.S. Supreme Court. (Photo: Doug Mills/AP)

Aug. 3, 1993 — Amusing the president

President Clinton laughs at a remark made by Ruth Bader Ginsburg during a news conference following her confirmation by the Senate. (Photo: Gary Cameron/Reuters)
President Clinton laughs at a remark made by Ruth Bader Ginsburg during a news conference following her confirmation by the Senate. (Photo: Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Aug. 10, 1993 — Taking the oath

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes the oath to defend the Constitution. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, right, presides over the ceremony in the East Room of the White House as Ginsburg’s husband, Martin, holds the Bible and President Bill Clinton looks on. (Photo: Marcy Nighswander/AP)
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes the oath to defend the Constitution. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, right, presides over the ceremony in the East Room of the White House as Ginsburg’s husband, Martin, holds the Bible and President Bill Clinton looks on. (Photo: Marcy Nighswander/AP)

Oct. 1, 1993 — Family portrait

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with her family. From left are son-in-law, George Spera, daughter, Jane Ginsburg, husband, Martin, and son, James Ginsburg. The judge’s grandchildren Clara Spera and Paul Spera are in front. (Photo: Doug Mills/AP)
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with her family. From left are son-in-law, George Spera, daughter, Jane Ginsburg, husband, Martin, and son, James Ginsburg. The judge’s grandchildren Clara Spera and Paul Spera are in front. (Photo: Doug Mills/AP)

Dec. 3, 1993 — U.S. Supreme Court

Members of the U.S. Supreme Court pose for their group portrait in Washington. Standing, from left: Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Anthony M. Kennedy, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Seated, from left are: Sandra Day O’Connor, Harry Blackmun, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens and Antonin Scalia. (Photo: Marcy Nighswander/AP)
Members of the U.S. Supreme Court pose for their group portrait in Washington. Standing, from left: Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Anthony M. Kennedy, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Seated, from left are: Sandra Day O’Connor, Harry Blackmun, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens and Antonin Scalia. (Photo: Marcy Nighswander/AP)

Jan. 8, 1994 — Washington opera

Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Antonin Scalia, respectively fourth and fifth in front row from left, with members of the cast of “Ariadne auf Naxos” following a performance at the Washington Opera. (Photo: Stephen R. Brown/AP)
Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Antonin Scalia, respectively fourth and fifth in front row from left, with members of the cast of “Ariadne auf Naxos” following a performance at the Washington Opera. (Photo: Stephen R. Brown/AP)

Jan. 20, 1997 — Vice President Al Gore is sworn in

Vice President Al Gore, with his wife, Tipper Gore, is sworn in by Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Photo: Ron Edmonds/AP)
Vice President Al Gore, with his wife, Tipper Gore, is sworn in by Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Photo: Ron Edmonds/AP)

Sept. 5, 2003 — After the opera

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at a function hosted by the Organization of American States. (Photo: Washington Times/Zuma Press)
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at a function hosted by the Organization of American States. (Photo: Washington Times/Zuma Press)

Jan. 20, 2009 — Inauguration of President Obama

Ginsburg arrives at the Capitol for the inauguration of President Obama, flanked by fellow justices Samuel Alito, left, and Steven Breyer, right. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Pool/AP)
Ginsburg arrives at the Capitol for the inauguration of President Obama, flanked by fellow justices Samuel Alito, left, and Steven Breyer, right. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Pool/AP)

Feb. 24, 2009 — Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is applauded in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill prior to President Barack Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress. (Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is applauded in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill prior to President Barack Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress. (Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP)

Feb. 24, 2009 — Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress

Obama greets Justice Ginsburg prior to his address before a joint session of Congress. (Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP)
Obama greets Justice Ginsburg prior to his address before a joint session of Congress. (Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP)

Oct. 1, 2010 – Elena Kagan’s investiture ceremony

From left: Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (retired), Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Associate Justice Elena Kagan prior to Justice Kagan’s investiture at the U.S. Supreme Court. (Photo: Rex/Shutterstock)
From left: Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (retired), Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Associate Justice Elena Kagan prior to Justice Kagan’s investiture at the U.S. Supreme Court. (Photo: Rex/Shutterstock)

May 26, 2011 — 360th Harvard University commencement exercises

While standing to receive her honorary degree from Harvard University, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was treated to a serenade from Spanish tenor Placido Domingo after he received his honorary degree. Sitting between them is commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia. (Photo: Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe via Getty)
While standing to receive her honorary degree from Harvard University, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was treated to a serenade from Spanish tenor Placido Domingo after he received his honorary degree. Sitting between them is commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia. (Photo: Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe via Getty)

June 21, 2011 — Jefferson Award for Public Service

Former Sen. Harris Wofford, left, applauds as Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves the stage after being awarded a Jefferson Award for Public Service. (Photo: Cliff Owen/AP)
Former Sen. Harris Wofford, left, applauds as Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves the stage after being awarded a Jefferson Award for Public Service. (Photo: Cliff Owen/AP)

Jan. 25, 2012 — State Department

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the State Department before Ginsburg left for two North African countries where popular uprisings toppled longtime leaders. (Photo: State Department/AP)
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the State Department before Ginsburg left for two North African countries where popular uprisings toppled longtime leaders. (Photo: State Department/AP)

July 24, 2013 — In chambers

Ginsburg in her chambers at the Supreme Court. (Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP)
Ginsburg in her chambers at the Supreme Court. (Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP)

Jan. 20, 2015 — State of the Union

Justice Stephen Breyer discreetly nudges Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to keep her awake as President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union Address. (Photo: Andrew Harnik for the Washington Post via Getty)
Justice Stephen Breyer discreetly nudges Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to keep her awake as President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union Address. (Photo: Andrew Harnik for the Washington Post via Getty)

March 18, 2015 — Women’s History Month reception

Ginsburg greets participants at an annual Women’s History Month reception hosted by Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Allison Shelley/Getty Images)
Ginsburg greets participants at an annual Women’s History Month reception hosted by Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

April 15, 2015 — Leadership Forum

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the Seneca Women Global Leadership Forum in Washington. (Photo: Kevin Wolf/Invision for Seneca Women/AP)
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the Seneca Women Global Leadership Forum in Washington. (Photo: Kevin Wolf/Invision for Seneca Women/AP)

Jan. 12, 2016 — President Obama’s last State of the Union address

President Barack Obama hugs Ginsburg as the president arrives to deliver his State of the Union address. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
President Barack Obama hugs Ginsburg as the president arrives to deliver his State of the Union address. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

June 17, 2016 — In chambers

Ginsburg showing the collar she wears with her robes in courtroom sessions, in her chambers at the Supreme Court. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Ginsburg showing the collar she wears with her robes in courtroom sessions, in her chambers at the Supreme Court. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Sept. 21, 2016 — ‘My Own Words’

Ginsburg holds a copy of her book “My Own Words” after an appearance at Temple Emanu-El in New York City. (Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images)
Ginsburg holds a copy of her book “My Own Words” after an appearance at Temple Emanu-El in New York City. (Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

Jan. 20, 2017 — President Trump’s Inauguration

Left to right: Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg arrive at the Capitol, where Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. (Photo: Win McNamee/AFP/Getty Images)
Left to right: Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg arrive at the Capitol, where Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. (Photo: Win McNamee/AFP/Getty Images)

Oct. 8, 2018 — The swearing-in ceremony of Brett Kavanaugh

From left: Supreme Court Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito listen as President Trump speaks during the swearing-in ceremony of Brett Kavanaugh, far right. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
From left: Supreme Court Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito listen as President Trump speaks during the swearing-in ceremony of Brett Kavanaugh, far right. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Nov. 30, 2018 — U.S. Supreme Court portrait

Ginsburg during a group portrait session for the new full court, (Photo: Jim Young/Reuters)
Ginsburg during a group portrait session for the new full court, (Photo: Jim Young/Reuters)

Nov. 30, 2018 — U.S. Supreme Court portrait

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court gather for a group portrait, Nov. 30, 2018. Seated from left: Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr. Standing behind from left: Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Elena Kagan and Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court gather for a group portrait, Nov. 30, 2018. Seated from left: Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr. Standing behind from left: Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Elena Kagan and Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Dec. 14, 2018 — Naturalization ceremony

Ginsburg speaks during a naturalization ceremony at the Rotunda of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Ginsburg speaks during a naturalization ceremony at the Rotunda of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Oct. 3, 2020 – Speaking at Amherst College

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joins Amherst College President Biddy Martin for a conversation in Coolidge Cage at Amherst College in Amherst, MA on Oct. 3, 2019. (Erin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joins Amherst College President Biddy Martin for a conversation in Coolidge Cage at Amherst College in Amherst, MA. (Erin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Feb. 10, 2020 – Speaking at Georgetown Univerisity

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes the stage for a discussion at the Georgetown University Law Center on February 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes the stage for a discussion at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Feb. 14, 2020 — ‘Woman of Leadership Award’ renamed for Ginsburg

(L-R) Julie Opperman, Chairman of the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation; John Studzinski, CBE, Award Chairman; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; and Agnes Gund at the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award ceremony at The Library of Congress on February 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Shannon Finney/Getty Images)
At the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award ceremony at the Library of Congress. (Shannon Finney/Getty Images)

May 6, 2020 — A justice in the COVID-19 era

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, is displayed on a laptop computer during oral arguments before the Supreme Court in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania in an arranged photograph taken in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., on May 6, 2020.(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
An image of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is displayed on a computer during oral arguments before the Supreme Court. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Aug 18, 2020 — Ginsburg the icon

 A cardboard cutout of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
A cardboard cutout of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Edwin M. Lee Asian Pacific Democratic Club in San Francisco, August 2020. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Cover thumbnail image: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

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